A Rainbow Lights The Way

Art Johnson, my so very valued friend in San Marcos, in his market report today [should be called his preaching moment] talked about how life can be ordered in a meaningful way. His thoughts and wisdom also brought focus upon the marriage Diane and I celebrate. Let me share.

For Diane and me, today is our 16th wedding anniversary, 17 years after we first met in the Denver Airport, because the flight from Denver to Austin had been cancelled, with only one flight left. Standing in line for the last plane “out of Dodge, I mean, Denver” was Diane, whom I had never met, but I knew she HAD to be from Texas or Kentucky, because of her southern speak. We both got on the plane, she second to last. I had found a seat way in the back. Landed in Austin.

We stood together at Baggage #4 in the Austin Airport. I was returning from Oregon where I caught lots of salmon. That was my therapy following heart angioplasty. Diane was returning from Vail from an Information Technology Conference.

So glad she likes salmon, because I had a large bag of filleted Chinook and Coho salmon. Even more grateful when I asked, “How many in your family?”, she answered, “I live alone with my son.”

Well, well, well. Almost a year later, to the day, we got married by my best clergy friend and mentor, Fred Trost in Cannon Beach, Oregon. And the rest, to today and with a vision for many years to come, as they say, is history. Happy 16th Diane!

To this Art Johnson shared his McCoy Marketing report for Friday, but in less than 3 minutes, it’s as good a sermon as I’ve ever heard. He spoke about an employee with a 40-year anniversary with the company. He remembered, waaay back, Steven, a fellow employee showed Art a picture…of one of their stores, a bright rainbow centered in the back of the store.

He then shared, the message in his living…of his friend: “Steven shared a picture with me. It said a great deal. It said in life we should have hope, indicated by Steven walking with his head up, he slowed down to take a picture, indicating he was grateful and he shared the picture with others, a sign of caring.

Three dynamics in life: HOPE, GRATITUDE AND CARING.”

Art? That will preach, perhaps especially in this day…for our world swirls more today for many of us. If we can concentrate and prioritize our own walking the human landscape, ah, that will bring rainbows. Yes. It will.

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My Marching Orders

Clear I need to be. I never served in the military. If I had been drafted in the 60’s I would have accepted the call and become a Military Chaplain. My wife, Diane, has served in the Army, primarily in Berlin. My daughter-in-law, Jennifer, an attorney, is assistant secretary for installations with the Air Force and Assistant Deputy General Counsel with the Army Reserves, with a Pentagon office. My dear friend, Bob, and former church member at Broadmoor church, who flew on his own for my doctoral degree commencement service in St. Louis, is a retired General.

I was privileged to serve for 8 years at Broadmoor Community Church in Colorado Springs. During those years I became close friends with many of the retired military in our congregation. Two retired Generals, Charlie Duff from the Army and Bill Greenfield from the Air Force, nominated me to attend their respective War Colleges…the Army’s in Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania and the Air Force’s in Montgomery, Alabama. It was such a learning week, gathered with 49 other citizens to be updated on the latest realities of recently declassified military information.

Okay, the War College seminars were in the late 1980’s. Still, what impressed me was the integrity and competency and vision of the military, doing what needs to be done for safety and security.

Another okay admission. The world today, almost 30 years later, may be teetering, given the latest nuclear strike realities in North Korea, and unstable verbal fissures in too many countries, including our own.

It is a different world today.

To this, and I hope to share this next Sunday with the new friends at the First Christian Church in Lexington, I do not know the future. But I KNOW who holds the future. And, it’s not romance that I remember a radio program farewell in the 40’s in Portland, Oregon, before I was 10, “Today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well, therefore, to this day.”

I still do, down deep. Our journey should not be held captive by fear; it should be encouraged by faith. I trust. I trust that no military decision will be made that eschews diplomacy.

One more note. I find it both biblically and theologically reprehensible when a Washington D.C. pastor says that “God wants President Trump to nuke North Korea.” Whoa there, fella. Your misuse of the Bible slaps Jesus in the face. At least to me.

And in my Bible, Jesus doesn’t say nuke anyone. He says, “Do not fear; do not be afraid.” Those are my marching orders.

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The Voice Of The Heart

Seeing this linked article, which I consider must-see for anyone, especially those who think they’ll never be without bootstraps, triggered a memory I’ve never shared before.

I want to now. And the reason, although this is not an event that changed anyone’s world. But, I know it revealed what my parents taught me about fair-play and consideration we each have gifts…and liabilities. I want to share it because of the heart of a young girl I met yesterday at church, whose middle name has to be Vulnerability. Yet, there’s nothing vulnerable about her and her mother. The mother is Gena Hargrove and her daughter is Lannie.

The moment happened yesterday as I walked from the church’s fellowship hall to the sanctuary. Lannie was in a stroller. She had a smile that would melt any icy spirit. Her mother explained her daughter cannot talk or walk. And yet, her smile…well, it was contagious—and—very, very real. The attitude of the mother was so incredible…she gave love its essence. Love flowed from Gena and Lannie. That said to me, never not help, never let judgment rule our understanding. And. Never forget we each have needs and we each are called for integrity, no matter the results. See? How rare that is today.

Anyway. My memory this morning triggered by the most wonderful experience yesterday at the First Christian Church in Lexington, Texas. Spoke about my experience the week before…and, gulp, the congregation had doubled yesterday. That’s not the point. The point is the voice of our heart.

Let me continue about my dealing with vulnerability. Which may result in your thinking I’m a loser. Hey, that’s okay. What you think is less important than how you act.

It happened at Benson High School’s baseball field, the Spring of 1955, Portland, Oregon. I had the joyous opportunity be the starting pitcher the last baseball game of the season for our Jefferson High School Democrats. [Yep, that’s our name!!!] As a freshman, well, that was so important.

The pitcher on the other team, also a freshman, was Tom Brockmeyer. Tall, maybe 6’ 4”, not bulky, right handed, threw good fastballs. As I came to the plate the first time I noticed something. Blinked. Got out of the batter’s box and blinked again. I batted left-handed. I saw—maybe the third baseman thought I was the next Mickey Mantle, since I had the same initials [!], was back on the edge of the infield. Perfect. To bunt up the third base line.

I then looked at Brockmeyer and saw…he was club-footed. Which meant his ability to field a bunt was less than anyone ever. But. For whatever reason my “insides” said to not bunt. Hit away, Miller.

Okay. I’m not noble. I just wanted us to be, at least in that moment, on the same playing field. I didn’t want to take advantage. Not a hero. Not anything to write home about. But, when seeing this link this morning, I thought of batting against Tom Brockmeyer.

Truth? I don’t remember what happened. I only remember the voice of my heart…and I felt more than okay about not bunting. Maybe I got a hit. Maybe I struck out. But I didn’t bunt. Didn’t seem the right thing to do. And it did feel good. I was able to pitch the complete game. And as a surprise, Tom came up after the game and said, “You’re good. Don’t know your name. But. You have a great future. The umpire told our coach he’d never seen a better curve ball…and he’s umped 15 years.” He tapped my shoulder. “He was talking about you because I’m not left-handed.”

I couldn’t believe it. Not the curve ball. But the character and class and value of Tom Brockmeyer…just like the class and value of the mother and child yesterday in Lexington. And the class and value of the runner in the link. That memory was triggered by the wonderful spirit of Gena and the smile, ear to ear, of Lannie. And the link below.

All good. All good.

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/good-news/struggling-runner-crosses-finish-line-with-competitors-help/ar-AApwQv0?li=AAk6ORB&ocid=spartandhp

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The Value Of Becoming Less

I’m becoming more and more aware that when a decision needs to be made, hardly anyone pushes for more, to this extent: “Mark, in your thought and heart, what seems to be best in this for you?”

Some friends do…they are my “go-to” covenants. Those who care more for how they’d handle my situation…well, friendship has its limits. That means lots of limited friendships. Sorry, but that’s the truth.

To this, I give thanks to my Saturday morning covenant guy: Art Johnson, VP at McCoy Materials. He gives a voice mail report to all their stores—more than a handful of stores. It’s a 3-part report—gosh, just like we were told in seminary about a sermon’s sectioning. 3-part. Never a quartet. Not sure why. Maybe it’s something about brevity and recollection?

Anyway.

This morning Art’s Voice, the affirmation—celebrating working anniversaries and retirements of employees, with particular comments on the value of the employee. Then the market report for Friday. Confession: I am close to clueless what the numbers mean…they are what they are. Sure. It’s about profit and margin. But, then he switches…from profit to prophet. [Hey, it just came out!]

Then the voice of Art, the deeper, so valued and trusted voice. I took notes about how he began with McCoy as a management trainee, in early 1980, in Abilene, Texas. He then said, much better than I,

“Early I didn’t see people. All I saw was my reflection in them…me, me, me.

Now, it’s different. Now. I can make you bigger than me—good thing—being less so others can be more.”

Boys and girls, give me a loud AMEN!

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A Lovely Way To Start My Day…and…Maybe Yours!

Such a lovely way to start a day. Maybe only. Maybe only for those who have dogs. I don’t know.

What I do know is that Faith, Caleb and Copper own my heart…and the joy we share when they take me for a walk…ah, sweet.

Not everything has to have theological connection. Well, I could push for that, but not now. Now it’s to invite you to watch and appreciate dogs ain’t stupid. And. Neither is each of us. Hope your day is more than living up to your minimum!!! Grace and Peace.

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Humor Is Not Always Funny

I’m into humor. The most humorous to me is not from me. Hardly. It’s from Steven Wright, who speaks in a monotone, dullness crashing through, and shares why he wears different colored socks. In fact, one of the best birthdays for Matthew was the surprise gift taking him to see Wright. In my mind, excuse the pun, “Wright was never wrong.” When someone chided Wright for wearing different colored socks, he mused, “I go by thickness.”

A few more “Wrightisms”: It’s a small world, but I wouldn’t want to paint it. I broke a mirror in my house and I’m supposed to get 7 year’s bad luck, but my lawyer thinks he can get me five. I’m writing a book. I have the page numbers done; now I just have to fill in the rest. I went to a place to eat. It said, “Breakfast anytime.” So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.

I like one-liners, really spontaneous, when getting to a business, let’s say the Post Office and another person arrives just after I get to the door, I open it [if not automatic] and say, “Nice. Your timing was perfect.” Or, I’ll tell a store manager, ”Hey, bet you love customers who refuse to spell whine with an h.”

However, now that humor, or a sense of humor has become an out from criticism, I draw—and hopefully no less or differently for you—a line. When I heard that our President’s encouragement to the police force gathered to “be tougher than the criminals,” A press conference indicated the President was “joking.” I didn’t find a smile anywhere. Thank goodness, and this was triggered by my Police Chief buddy in training his new staff members, “When I bring on new officers, I spend some time with them on day 1 of their academy. During my talk with them, I tell them about my big 5, the keys to being successful at SMPD. #1 on the list is ‘treat everyone with dignity and respect.’”

And then this morning I read where Scaramucci said, in so many words, he was joking about his trash-down of Priebus. Not.

Sorry, guys, but I don’t buy it. There’s nothing funny about humor misplaced. Not that it should be absent…but the situation is crucial…no matter if thickness of socks has a place or not. Or how much force a police officer should provide. Or…

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One Mermaid Meets Another Mermaid

Life has moments, some of which message beyond the occasion.

For instance, shared recently that last Sunday during my visit at a church in “rural Texas,” I met a man who shared his life as a “catcher.” Of course I thought of pitching. He, though, had something else in mind. He thought of “flying,” because he was a catcher in a circus. How special. He then showed me the “catcher grip,” so he wouldn’t fail to catch, either his father or his brother. Goodness, what a moment, to be secure because of someone else.

Another for instance. I read what was said by the Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayer, who said that in a sense, “Everyone has times when their bootstraps are missing.” That indicates not one of us journeys through life without not needing someone else to help.

And. At times, the special moment is when we find another has been helped…and we’d never guess.

I share the following from Facebook, how one mermaid met another mermaid. Really such a beautiful and powerful moment…how the blind girl helps us see…with a picture of the girl and the lady. Tug at my heart, maybe yours, too. I hope that’s the case.

And we can move from the tug to sharing our lives with someone else, especially when their bootstraps are gone.

YOU GUYS. I’m CRYING. After the Saturday matinee, there was a talkback that not many people had known about and few had signed up for — so I decided to do it. I am SO glad I did. After the talkback, I was walking up the aisle to leave the theater and get some much needed food when I was introduced to Miss Cora. I was a puddle. She is a beautiful, curious, polite, lover of mermaids six year old – who also happens to be blind. I got down on my knees and wanted to talk to her forever. She was the SWEETEST little girl. I had her feel my eyelashes from the show which I still had on – and she curiously felt my street clothes and asked where my mermaid tail was. The amazing Orpheum Theatre here in Memphis had an audio description in her ear so that she could “watch” the show just like every six year old should be able to. According to her mother, she loved every bit of it and laughed and saw just as much magic as any kid should. I will NEVER forget this experience and am so glad that Justin happened to see this and pass it along to me! As an actor, it’s so humbling and incredible to have those experiences when you are reminded that your job IS IMPORTANT. That you are given the opportunity to make magic a reality in the world – and to get to do that for the kids is EVERYTHING to me. I am forever changed from meeting sweet Cora and I am so grateful. Be the change you want to see in this world and make it a better place.

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